Portland, OR - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has now demanded that the Portland Police Department stop using riot gear in response to protests and potential riots.
Sarah Armstrong, spokeswoman for the ACLU of Oregon, said that when police show up in riot gear, it escalates the situation and that police policies should aim for de-escalation, according to KGW. These comments come on the tail end of when police showed up in riot helmets to the illegal Portland Resistance protest on Monday. That protest was partially sponsored by Black Lives Matter PDX.
On Monday, 13 people were arrested by Portland Police Officers after blocking traffic during a "Not My President's Day" rally, which was held in front of the downtown Federal building. Six activists were arrested for Disorderly Conduct, three teenagers received traffic citations, and one protester was arrested for Second-Degree Disorderly Conduct, Resisting Arrest and Furnishing False Information to Police.
The protesters did not get a required permit and that activists blocked traffic at two highways that ran through the city as well as SW 3rd Avenue and Madison Street, according to KOIN.
At Monday's protest, Portland Police Officers first rode bicycles into the area and asked protesters to clear the streets. Those verbal warnings were given for about 20 minutes. When the criminals refused to stop impeding traffic, Portland Police Officers in riot helmets moved in to disperse them.
A second protest was also held in Portland on Monday, by the AFL-CIO, at a different location. That protest applied for and received a permit, and was peaceful. They did delay traffic but with a permitted police escort.
In a statement released Wednesday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said that he and the Police Chief plan to meet with members of the community to discuss how best to relieve tensions between protesters and police officers. Several protesters have complained that people are being arrested once they leave the street they were blocking and retreat to the sidewalk. Portland PD Sergeant Pete Simpson said that the sidewalk is not "home base," and that it's too late to retreat to the sidewalk once a situation reaches a certain point.
A January 20th Portland protest turned into a violent riot when rioters threw eggs, rocks, bottles, and fireworks at Police Officers. As for the ACLU's request, Sergeant Simpson said that the gear is for their own protection.
I have a few solutions for the protesters/rioters. First, obey the law. Get a valid permit and don't disobey the law while you are protesting. Second, if you break the law, accept and understand that there is a great possibility that you will be arrested. Third, respect authority. If a Portland Police Officer gives you a lawful command, then do it. And lastly, understand that you have no clue about being a Police Officer and riot gear is to protect officers' lives, not protester's feelings.
Do you think that officers should further risk their lives by dealing with an illegal protest without riot gear? We'd like to know what you think. Please let us know below.